Eating My Way Through Cincinnati’s OTR Neighborhood and Beyond

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Vibrant Tulips at The Banks in Cincinnati, Ohio, April 2016.

Vibrant Tulips at The Banks in Cincinnati, Ohio, April 2016.

Recently, I was a reluctant visitor conducting business in Cincinnati. Prior to this trip, my previous visits were to the Cincinnati-Kentucky International Airport (which is in Kentucky) and a 10-day business trip one January where I primarily saw the inside of an exhibition hall and a hotel room because it was so dang cold. I know it’s home to the Reds, Bengals, chili and residents who like to head south during the winter.

My conclusion?

Can You Spot Me? Cincinnati, Ohio, April 2016

Can You Spot Me? Cincinnati, Ohio, April 2016

Dang, Cincinnati. You’re pretty cool! Honestly, my expectations were low and as I write this, I’m wondering when I can plan a return trip, especially since Allegiant Air offers daily nonstop service between Punta Gorda and Cincinnati and Delta has nonstop flights from Southwest Florida International Airport. There was a fresh, creative vibe and everyone was friendly, including the most cordial homeless population I’ve ever met.

During my 48-hour business trip, I stayed at the Homewood Suites in downtown which meant I was close to the action. A few blocks south down Vine Street, I explored the riverfront area along the Ohio River called The Banks. It’s the area between Paul Brown Stadium (home of the Cincinnati Bengals) and Great American Ball Park (where the Cincinnati Reds play) and includes a linear park, enclosed carousel, Steamboat Hall of Fame (yeah, I didn’t know there was such a thing), Reds Hall of Fame and Museum and eateries.

Pete Rose Sticker Spotted in Cincinnati, Ohio, April 2016

Pete Rose Sticker Spotted in Cincinnati, Ohio, April 2016

I stopped to admire the brilliant tulips and watch people enjoy the park’s playground equipment including what looked like a giant, silver flying pig. There was also a foot piano which had keys on the cement and big metal tubes above.

One of Several Murals in Cincinnati Supported by ArtWorks, April 2016.

One of Several Murals in Cincinnati Supported by ArtWorks, April 2016.

Weather was perfect for a longer walk so I ambled over the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge into Kentucky and often looked down at the rushing Ohio River below. The 19th century baby-blue bridge reminded me of the Brooklyn Bridge in design and when it was first constructed, was the world’s longest suspension bridge.

John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge, Cincinnati, Ohio, April 2016

John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge, Cincinnati, Ohio, April 2016

I grabbed a late lunch at Moerlein Lager House and sipped on a flight of craft beer made at their brewery and gobbled up a bowl of Angry Mac & Cheese with plump shrimp, sausage, and a creamy sauce with a dollop of fierce attitude.

A few blocks north up Vine Street, I was in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood which has German roots and has enjoyed a prosperous renaissance in the last few years. This area was the scene of amazing gastronomical enjoyment. Apparently a trend in the OTR is churches being converted into breweries and I enjoyed a yummy steak salad at Taft’s Ale House.

Chicken and waffles with Ohio maple syrup and hot sauce at Taste of Belgium. Yumola! #cincyusa #EatCincinnati #foodie

A photo posted by Jennifer Huber (@jenniferhuber) on

The next day, I gobbled up a waffle topped with gooey Ohio honey and a fried chicken breast dressed in hot sauce at Taste of Belgium. Across the street I munched on more chicken at The Eagle OTR, an eatery several people recommended I try. The chicken was perfectly crunchy and was accompanied with golden honey spiked with a fiery hot sauce. Collard greens were hot, spicy and savory with bacon.

Before my lunch appointment, there was idle time because the restaurant was closed for a private party. Across the street was The Candle Lab where I poured a sweet, floral-scented travel candle tin with the fresh scents of honey crisp, lily of the valley and tulip. From a wall of candles ranging in scents from old books to honeysuckle, I wrote down several scents I liked. The Candle Lab staff asked which was my favorite then looking at my list, advised which other scents I selected complemented the primary scent.

Pouring a Candle at The Candle Lab, Cincinnati, Ohio, April 2016.

Pouring a Candle at The Candle Lab, Cincinnati, Ohio, April 2016.

While the gal gathered the scents, I sat at the bar, grabbed some markers and designed my own label for the bottom of the candle jar. My three scents were delivered as oils in brown bottles and I squirted out scent drop by drop into a jigger, frequently smelling and mixing.

“You still have a little room in that jigger,” The Candle Lab gal said when I thought I was done.

Mmm. Donuts at Holtman Donuts, Cincinnati, Ohio, April 2016.

Mmm. Donuts at Holtman Donuts, Cincinnati, Ohio, April 2016.

Sure enough, there was enough room for several more drops of oil. Once the jigger was completely filled, liquefied soy wax was poured into the travel tin – which had a wick – and the oils were added. I was instructed to stir until I was told to stop and that was it. My candle was ready 90-minutes later and smells delicious enough to gobble up for dessert.

Following lunch was a trip to Bretzel for bretzel twists (soft, Bavarian-style pretzels). The pretzel bakery offers 40 flavors and I ended up bringing back Original, Birthday Cake (sweet with colorful sprinkles and chocolate chips), Lemon Poppy Seed (sophisticatedly sweet), and Rosemary and Garlic (savory perfection).

#FoodPorn at Salazar Restaurant in Cincinnati, Ohio, April 2016.

#FoodPorn at Salazar Restaurant in Cincinnati, Ohio, April 2016.

Salazar was the pinnacle of a foodgasm that began with a foie gras mouse with green strawberry, freeze dried strawberry, quinoa, truffle gastrique and served with challah which reminded me of a light and airy corn bread. The main course was a buttery salmon fillet with a crunchy and salted “everything” crust, accompanied with bite-sized cream cheese dumplings, pickled fresno chilies, bagel chips, caperberry and dill sauce.

A cinnamon sugar donut filled with rhubarb custard topped off the heavenly meal. The creamy custard was pucker-tart and complemented sweet and crunchy donut. I also sampled the delicious goat cheese and cherry ice cream and chocolate almond milk ice cream which tasted like an Almond Joy Bar. The server said ingredients are sourced from within about a 100-mile radius and dishes are made at the restaurant, including the creamy ice creams.

At Holtman’s Donuts, a friendly, family-owned shop, I sampled a red velvet donut topped with cream cheese icing and Lucky Charms cereal and a blueberry cake donut topped with maple frosting and bacon crumbles. Oh. My Goodness.

Across the river in Bellevue, KY, for the first time I tried goetta at a fun, kinda quirky café called Avenue Brew. Once the owner and other diners learned I was a goetta virgin, they were eager whether I loved or hated it. Have to say, my goetta, egg and American cheese sandwich on an English muffin was pretty tasty and I’m a fan. Goetta is a Cincinnati thing and made with pinhead oats, pork and spices. It had a bit of an earthy, gamey flavor to it.

Slurp! Here it is. Cincinnati chili at the airport. #GoldStarChli #cincyusa

A photo posted by Jennifer Huber (@jenniferhuber) on

Of course, Cincinnati chili is a must and I slurped up a bowl of Gold Star Chili, which is served atop spaghetti , at the airport on my way home. It was more sweet than savory but still delicious.

All of these eateries were in a short distance of each other which means there’s a whole lot more of Cincinnati to discover. I know how to easily get there and who knows, maybe I’ll end up there for dinner and a ballgame some weekend this summer.


Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links to help me support my traveling habit.

Author: Solo Travel Girl

Originally from Buffalo, N.Y., a hiking trail led Jennifer Huber, aka: Solo Travel Girl, to a career path in tourism. She has worked in the tourism industry for more than 20 years including 10 years with a park management company in Yellowstone, Death Valley and Everglades National Park. She currently lives in Southwest Florida, and maintains this travel blog with the goal of inspiring others to travel alone, not lonely.

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